Aesthetics and predictive processing: grounds and prospects of a fruitful encounter

Dec 18, 2023

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In the last few years, a remarkable convergence of interests and results has emerged between scholars interested in the arts and aesthetics from a variety of perspectives and cognitive scientists studying the mind and brain within the predictive processing (PP) framework. This convergence has so far proven fruitful for both sides: while PP is increasingly adopted as a framework for understanding aesthetic phenomena, the arts and aesthetics, examined under the lens of PP, are starting to be seen as important windows into our mental functioning. The result is a vast and fast-growing research programme that promises to deliver important insights into our aesthetic encounters as well as a wide range of psychological phenomena of general interest. Here, we present this developing research programme, describing its grounds and highlighting its prospects. We start by clarifying how the study of the arts and aesthetics encounters the PP picture of mental functioning (§1). We then go on to outline the prospects of this encounter for the fields involved: philosophy and history of art (§2), psychology of aesthetics and neuroaesthetics (§3) and psychology and neuroscience more generally (§4). The upshot is an ambitious but well-defined framework within which aesthetics and cognitive science can partner up to illuminate crucial aspects of the human mind.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Art, aesthetics and predictive processing: theoretical and empirical perspectives’.